A robot in the garden: technological ecosystems as sustainable artworks. 

This research investigates how art and technology can claim new space for creative expression by intersecting and diverting the fields of Field Robotics and Agriculture Technology (AgTech) into innovative artistic pathways. 

AgTech is the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture with the aim of improving yield, efficiency, and profitability. AgTech leverages advancements in products such as environmental sensors that are connected together as internet of things (IoT) devices, to provide services, such as data analytics and microclimate predictions that can help farm management. 

Agtech is predicted to become Australia’s next billion dollar industry, but imagine a future where 30-50% of the population was able to manage their own food production whilst creating art in the process. This research takes futures seriously by proposing new habits and practices that help us become more resilient to pandemics and economic disasters, by becoming more self-sufficient. It also reduces food miles which is a major contributor to climate change. 

The research asks; can Agtech systems create art as well as food? What does the art generated from Aquaculture, Apiculture, and Agriculture look and sound like? What does the system’s sculptural form look like and how can it be exhibited? Can art + technological systems be sustainable over longer durations and how can we make the system and or data engaging to a wide audience?

A series of experimental projects will be developed whilst adhering to the following Permaculture principles: Observe and interact; Catch and store energy; Obtain a yield; Use and value renewable resources and services; Produce no waste; Creatively use and respond to change. 

“Robot Ecosystem 1” includes the research and development of a solar powered electronic aquaculture system that supports the life of fish, edible plants as well as an online art experience. The self monitoring ecosystem will be programmed to regulate its own microclimate through the use of environmental sensors, which in turn optimises the systems operational efficiency. Data from the sensors will also be used in visualisation and sonification experiments. Underwater live video and audio from a network of embedded cameras installed throughout the aquaculture system will also be used to create an interactive panoramic Web VR browser experience, an installation and or a performance.

Experiments using the above aquaculture system will also be applied to an Apiculture system, a system that produces honey and electronic art, capturing multiple camera views and data over a long duration. Another experiment includes a Mycology ecosystem: a system that produces mushrooms and electronic art, combining, data, time lapse footage and sound.

A possible future pathway could be to take this research from the backyard studio to the farm to create large-scale and durational audio-visual performances of up to a year. Using a network of multiple (IoT) devices installed across a large environment. Each IoT device would capture and send environmental data from its sensors as well as audio-visuals data streams, to form a year long data set and an abundance of local produce.